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EXCLUSIVE

French jihadists are active in Battle of Idlib in Syria, FRANCE 24 reports

Wassim Nasser on French jihadists in Syria
Wassim Nasser on French jihadists in Syria © France 24 screen grab

French jihadists are fighting in the Battle of Idlib against the Syrian regime. They are following orders from the French jihadi recruiter Omar Omsen, who claimed independence from the Islamic State (IS) group and al Qaeda.

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Images show that dozens of French jihadists are active in Syria in the battle of Idlib.

"There are a few dozen people who have been in the area since 2013 and who have set up a camp on the Syrian-Turkish border," said FRANCE 24's Wassim Nasr, a specialist in jihadist networks, who spoke for two hours via Skype with French recruiter Omar Omsen, the head of the jihadist group Furkat-al-Ghuraba. Women and children are also there.

Having pledged allegiance to al Qaeda upon arrival in Syria, these French jihadists "reclaimed their independence in 2018", according to Omar Omsen. Omsen maintains complicated relationships with local jihadi leaders and holds paradoxical positions, according to Nasr. "He has spoken out against the Nice bombings, which affected civilians, but maintains that the Charlie Hebdo attack was legitimate," Nasr said.

"France has put a price on my head," Omsen said. "But I never called for attacks in France and I even prevented them," the jihadist recruiter said.

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